|Florida Fish: Snapper (2)|
Snapper (Lutjanus mahogoni)
Mahogany snapper occur from North Carolina to Venezuela,
including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. This species is common
in the Caribbean but is rare in US waters. The mahogany snapper occurs
in nearshore water as deep as 328 feet. It is usually found in clear,
shallow water over rocky bottoms near coral reefs but occurs less
frequently in sandy areas or seagrass. It often forms large aggregations
during the day and has been observed to school with white grunt at Grand
Cayman. This snapper has a relatively deep body. The belly runs straight
from the mouth to the anal fin. It has a pointed snout and large eyes.
The lower jaw projects beyond upper jaw. The anal fin is rounded, more
than usual in snappers. It has a bi-lobed dorsal fin and long pectoral
fin, as found in other many lutjanid fish. The anal fin is rounded. The
caudal fin is moderately forked. Mahogany snappers are very colorful
fish. Their back and upper sides are gray to dark olive, becoming
silvery on the lower sides and belly. There may be a red tinge
throughout the entire body. The mahogany snapper has an average length
of 15 inches, with a maximum length of 19 inches. The mahogany snapper
feeds nocturnally on small bottom fishes such as grunts. It also feeds
on marine invertebrates including shrimp, cephalopods, and crabs.
Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis ) The mutton snapper is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Brazil, but is most common in the tropical waters of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean Sea. It is also found in the Gulf of Mexico. Large adults are found in or near offshore reef and rock rubble habitats, while the juveniles live in inshore areas. The juveniles are abundant in shallow waters such as tidal mangrove creeks, canals, and shallow protected bays, utilizing turtle grass as bottom cover. Solitary adults can be found among rocks and reefs, while juveniles occur over sandy or sea grass bottoms. Once an adult mutton snapper becomes established in an area, they tend to remain there. Small aggregations of mutton snapper may form during the day, disbanding at night. These fish may be found at depths ranging from 80 - 310 feet. This snapper is a relatively deep-bodied fish, with an almost lunate-shaped tail. It has a moderately bi-lobed dorsal fin, and a sharply pointed anal fin. The pectoral fin of this snapper is long, reaching just past the anal origin. Mutton snappers are very colorful, with olive green on their backs and upper sides and a red tinge on the lower sides and undersides. There is a distinct black spot on the upper back and blue stripes on the cheek region below the eye. There are two color phases, barred which is seen when the fish is resting and plain color seen when the fish is swimming. The mutton snapper has an average length of 20 inches, with a maximum length of 32 inches.
Queen Snapper (Etelis oculatus) The queen snapper is among the deepest dwelling species of the snappers, and its distribution covers the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, from North Carolina to the eastern tip of Brazil. The queen snapper is generally found offshore over rocky reefs of the continental shelf to a depth of 450 feet. A smaller fish, the queen snapper is usually less than twenty inches in length. The queen snapper is red on it's back and upper sides, with the lower sides more silvery. The body of the queens snapper is long and slender; and it's dorsal fin is distinctly notched, and forked. The queen snapper has large eyes and no dark lateral spot. The queen snapper is exploited by only a few fisheries in the Caribbean. Most often it is only a minor part of the catch of line fisheries that focus on the whole community of snappers.
Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) The red snapper is a reef fish found in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States, including Florida. The red snapper commonly inhabits waters from 30 to 200 feet, but can be caught as deep as 300 feet or more on occasion. They stay relatively close to the bottom, and inhabit rocky bottom, ledges, ridges, and artificial reefs, including offshore oil rigs and shipwrecks. The red snapper's body is very similar in shape to other snappers, all feature a sloped profile, medium-to-large scales, a spiny dorsal fin and a laterally compressed body. Red snappers have short, sharp, needle-like teeth, however they lack the prominent upper canine teeth found on the mutton, dog, and mangrove snappers. Coloration of the red snapper is light red, with more intense pigment on the back. A red snapper attains sexual maturity at age 2–5 and an adult snapper can live for more than 50 years. Juvenile fish can also have a dark spot on their side which fades with age. Like most other snappers, red snappers are gregarious and will form large schools around wrecks and reefs. These schools are usually made up of fish of very similar size. Juveniles occur over sandy or mud bottoms and are often taken in shrimp trawls. Adult red snapper may live more than 20 years, and attain 35 pounds or more. The Florida record for a red snapper catch is 46 pounds, 8 ounces! Red snapper will eat almost anything, but prefer small fish and crustaceans. They can be caught on live bait as well as cut bait, and will also take artificial lures, but with less vigor. The vibrant red color of these fish comes from high levels of carotenoid pigments, largely astaxanthin, coming from shrimp in their natural diet.
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